Could Ilfracombe follow Welsh example?
A Welsh counterpart to Ilfracombe has found closing its high street to traffic in summer a great success.
THE idea of closing Ilfracombe High Street to traffic might seem daunting to some but for a very similar town just “across the water” in South Wales pedestrianisation has proved a success.
As part of investigating the possibility of introducing such a scheme to Ilfracombe Steve Seatherton of the North Devon Plus Joint Delivery Team travelled to Tenby in Pembrokeshire, where it has been operating since 2002.
As revealed in the Gazette last week, a task group has been investigating a range of ideas to regenerate Ilfracombe High Street, among them the idea of returning it to pedestrians, either full time or for a few weeks at the height of the summer.
“I have looked at other places with pedestrianisation and Tenby is as good a match with Ilfracombe as any we can find,” Mr Seatherton told the Gazette.
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“It is a seaside resort and the topography looks and feels very much like Ilfracombe. They operate it in the summer months from 11am-5pm, seven weeks of the year, so it is a very small scheme.
“When the high street closed, people were putting tables and chairs outside, it was amazing – and it was packed.”
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He said the Tenby model seemed to work, suiting traders and residents, but that park and ride car parks were key to its success and something that would have to be addressed if anything similar were ever introduced in the North Devon town.
The Gazette approached Pembrokeshire County Council and was told by Councillor Jamie Adams, deputy leader and cabinet member for highways and planning, that the summer scheme was now a regular feature of Tenby’s calendar and welcomed by the vast majority of visitors and residents.
“It eases traffic congestion during the busiest part of the year and makes Tenby more pleasant for everyone” he added.
“Tenby is a small town of narrow streets and in the summer its population swells from 5,000 to 50,000. Something had to be done as the streets were becoming choked with traffic so we decided to grasp the nettle so to speak.
“Now it’s part of the resort culture and locals and visitors alike expect the town centre to be traffic free in summer.”
The task group of town and district councillors, North Devon Plus and local business people says it is simply looking at it as an idea for Ilfracombe. A consultation with businesses is planned for early 2012 and then a full public consultation. Views can be emailed to email@example.com or posted online at www.theilfracombecentre.co.uk/ilfracombe-forum.